Kashmir in Rajya Sabha: Opposition Criticism Dulled by AAP, BSP, TDP's Support to Decision

YSRCP, BJD and TRS — all regional parties which have titled towards the government recently in the Rajya Sabha during debates on other Bills welcomed the proposals wholeheartedly as well.

New Delhi: Differences of opinion among opposition parties rose to the forefront as soon as Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday tabled multiple government resolutions and announced cabinet decisions that will affect the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha. 

Congress and its allies like Indian Union Muslim League and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam took strong objection to the government’s decisions and the unilateral manner in which it scrapped several provisions of Article 370 and decided to bifurcate the state into two Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. 

Leaders of the three parties argued that the resolutions violated the Indian Constitution, especially Article 373, which puts in place a process of consultation with states before the Centre takes such decisions. 

Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, Left parties, and Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen also opposed the move. Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir-based parties like  National Conference and People’s Democratic Party protested as soon as Shah announced the government decisions.

Also read | Live: Article 370 Has Done ‘Great Damage’ to Kashmir, Says Amit Shah

Notably, Bahujan Samaj Party, Telugu Desam Party, and Aam Aadmi Party — parties which have fought the Bharatiya Janata Party government politically over the last two years — came out in full support of the decision. 

While most National Democratic Alliance allies supported the decision, YSR Congress, Biju Janata Dal, and Telangana Rashtra Samithi — all regional parties which have titled towards the government recently in the Rajya Sabha during debates on other Bills — welcomed the government’s proposal wholeheartedly as well.

The Congress party leaders called the government’s order as a “murder of democracy” amounting to attacking the “fundamentals of the Indian Constitution”. 

Kicking off the debate, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “The historic Article 370 was the link through which Jammu and Kashmir was integrated into India. Many people, jawans and police personnel have sacrificed their lives [to safeguard it]. Thousands from 1947 onwards sacrificed their lives to keep Jammu and Kashmir in India. They stood behind India in good and bad times.”

“I had never imagined that the head of the state which is India’s crown will be chopped off,” he said, adding that it was a matter of shame that the Centre had reduced the state into a non-entity by according it Union Territory status. “It will be a black blot on India’s history when this Bill is passed (in Parliament),” Azad said.

Former finance minister P.Chidambaram argued that the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir through an executive order sets a larger precedent for the Centre to adopt such a method to divide other states too.

“What the government has done is unprecedented…a misadventure, a catastrophic step. What have they done? They have not simply gotten rid of Article 370.They have dismembered the state of Jammu and Kashmir by mischievously misinterpreting both Article 3 and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution,” he said. 

Calling the government move a “constitutional monstrosity,” Chidambaram said the same rules could now be applied to every other state of India. “All that they have to do is dismiss the elected government, impose President’s Rule, dissolve the elected assembly, ensure the parliament takes the power of the state assembly. Then the government moves a resolution, Parliament approves it and the state can be dismembered,” he said.

Likening the government’s decision to the “beginning of the disintegration of India, he said that “the idea of India as a union of states is in great danger.” 

“This is the worst day in the constitutional history of India,” he said. 

Party leader Kapil Sibal questioned the way the government announced its big decisions almost surreptitiously and gave the opposition only a few hours to debate on the issue. “How can there be a good debate if the government tables such big and sensitive decisions at 11 in the morning and asks us to debate?” he asked. 

The Left parties also registered their protest. “The people of Kashmir had acceded to India in the face of invaders from Pakistan and a solemn commitment had been made to them by the Indian State to provide them with special status and autonomy which was embodied in Article 370. The Modi government has betrayed the people of Jammu and Kashmir by going back on this commitment,” the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in a press release said.

The CPI(M) said that the BJP-led government has not only attacked the federal principle but also trampled upon the Constitution. 

“The run-up to these authoritarian measures have seen tens of thousands of troops being deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, detention of leaders of major political parties and movement of public prohibited. This itself shows that the Modi government is imposing its diktats without the consent of the people,” the party said, adding that it will stage protests along with other Left parties against the unilateral government decisions across India on August 7.

If the government’s stated intention was to strengthen the bonds between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India, it should have initiated a “process of political dialogue with all stakeholders, as promised by the government three years ago,” the Left party said, adding that the unilateral step will only “ deepen the alienation” of Kashmiri people.  

Derek O’ Brien of the Trinamool Congress said that August 5 was a “black Monday” and a dark day for the country’s constitution and the idea of India. Manoj Kumar Jha of Rashtriya Janata Dal said the government has opened the gates for Kashmir to become yet another Palestine in five years.

Also read | Kashmir Explainer: From Article 370 to Article 3, Modi-Shah Upend the Constitution

Tiruchi Siva of the DMK questioned the urgency of the move, especially at a time when the assembly elections were only two months away. 

He said that the power to abrogate Article 370 only rests with the state assembly but the Central government’s attempt to scrap the article in the absence of an elected state government clearly violated Article 373. “MNCs (multinationals) would take over and it won’t be the land of Kashmiris anymore,” he said.

Janata Dal (United), a crucial ally of the BJP, walked out of the house in protest. Its national spokesperson K.C. Tyagi said that they have been consistent in their opposition to BJP’s and its former political avatar Jana Sangh’s demands for the abolition of Article 370 and the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya since the very beginning.

Earlier in the day, two PDP MPs, Mir Fayaz and Nazir Ahmed Laway tore out pages of the constitution in protest as soon as Shah announced the cabinet decisions. PDP, Trinamool Congress, DMK MPs sat on dharna on the floor in the well of Rajya Sabha, resulting in quite the ruckus. 

Among the biggest surprises when it came to notes of support was AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s tweet.

BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, while supporting the move, tried to also project the idea that the decisions were not anti-minority in nature. “Our leader Mayawati ji supported the decision as Muslims from Uttar Pradesh and other states can also go to Kashmir now and find employment and do business there,” he said.

BJD MP Prasanna Acharya welcomed the decision by saying that the move may do justice to the Kashmiri Pandit community who were ousted from the Valley, although the abrogation of Article 370 has no direct link to their resettlement and rehabilitation in Jammu and Kashmir.